Who we are: A nation of immigrants?
0 comment Thursday, July 24, 2014 |
Lately we are told frequently by the media and by our political classes that we, Americans, are 'a nation of immigrants.' A google search on this phrase produces some 46,800,000 hits.
Yet how true is this phrase? It seems to imply, among other things, that America has no distinct character or culture; it is merely a tabula rasa, a blank slate upon which anyone is invited to come and write whatever he wishes. Each successive wave of newcomers, then, would superimpose his own culture and customs, and whichever group was most numerous would succeed in remaking America to their specifications. This seems to be the goal of the latest groups of immigrants: not to join an existing America, but to reshape America.
There is an implication also that America is strictly a creation of all the colorful 'melting-pot' immigrants; it is lately claimed that 'immigrants built America', or that they 'made America great.' This diminishes the contribution of the original colonists and settlers of America.
Reading the words of English philosopher Edmund Burke from the year 1775 tells us something about the character of the American people as they existed then. In his 'Speech on Conciliation With the Colonies', Burke said:
"In this character of the Americans a love of freedom is the predominating feature which marks and distinguishes the whole: and as an ardent is always a jealous affection, your colonies become suspicious, restive, and intractable, whenever they see the least attempt to wrest from them by force, or shuffle from them by chicane, what they think is the only advantage worth living for. This fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English colonies, probably, than in any other people of the earth...First, the people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, Sir, is a nation which still, I hope, respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant; and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted fro your hands. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas and on English principles...The colonies draw from you, as with their life-blood, these ideas and principles."
Remember, Burke's description is of an America before the days of mass immigration. It would seem, then, that the main characteristics of the American spirit were present even before this country declared independence from England. And whatever else characterizes America, surely most people would agree that the love of freedom and the 'fierce spirit of liberty' was the contribution of the earliest colonists to America. America was a great country because of these high ideals, and later generations of immigrants became Americans by adopting these ideals and the commitment to defend liberty. All true Americans, regardless of national origin, share these traits with the early English colonists. To immigrate here, in earlier eras, implied acceptance of these American ideals.
Without the distinctive contributions of the original English settlers and their particular character, without the ideals which shaped the founding of this country, America could never have become the magnet which drew the later waves of immigrants. To say that the immigrants 'made this country what it is today' is to diminish the role of the original colonists and Founders.
Our current Politically Correct orthodoxy has decided that the Founding Fathers were just 'dead white males', not worthy of respect or deserving of any credit. In some kind of perverse upside-down hierarchy, immigrants are the true makers of this country, and newer immigrants are accorded more status than the original settlers of this country and their descendants. Our founding heroes have been disparaged and removed from their rightful place, while new arrivals, even those who entered illegally, are treated with deference.
Perhaps we are now a nation of immigrants, or at least a nation for immigrants.

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